It’s a Question of Quality

Quality

Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:

Quality of Life

Quality of Work

Quality of Compensation

This was the latest prompt on my Quest journey and it comes from visionary, Sally Hogshead. (There’s still time to jump on board for all the goodness that Quest 2016 has to offer for anyone who’s wanting to do business as unusual for the coming year. Join in. It’s fun, thought-provoking, and free!)

I’ve answered all of the Quest prompts so far, but most of them have landed on the private Facebook page set up for our group. All have asked me how or what I want to do differently in 2016, but I wasn’t sure my answers aligned with this blog. But this one does. I’m always trying to talk people into becoming a Childbirth Educator, because I feel my job hits all three options.

Quality of Life:

I work only evenings and weekends. To some, this might sound like a terrible schedule! But when you have four kids you need to get really creative about how you’re going to work so you don’t end up with a full-time job you hate – just to pay the childcare bills. My job allows me to have the best of both worlds: I am there for school drop-off and pick-up, I attend field trips (at least those that involve theater or dance performances), I’m able to have a presence at my kids’ school, but I still have outside work – which matters way more to me than I would have guessed. My own Momma was a stay-at-homer and I grew up thinking that parenting was the most important job a person could ever do (for the record, I still feel that way!) so I expected to be content with doing the work of mothering “only” – but I was mistaken. I very much appreciate having out-of-the-home work, too. That was a surprise. I have a job that allows for true work-life balance.

Quality of Work:

I love my job. It’s constantly changing. Each and every classroom of students informs me and makes me a better educator. I’ve been able to grow and evolve over the years, expand my repertoire in and outside of the classroom, and have gotten to the point of feeling ready to write about this subject that matters so much to me. I’m encouraged by my colleagues and students to pursue writing my book to have even greater impact in my field of perinatal and parenting education. Close to twenty years in this career, and I still haven’t experienced any boredom with the subject matter. Likewise, I’ve never stopped feeling like I couldn’t continue to improve my presentation and teaching skills. I think this is extraordinary!

Quality of Compensation:

Well, the “joke” is that you’ll never get rich being a Childbirth Educator. This is true. It’s hard for any CBE to be able to work this job only and be able to support her family. Thankfully, I have a husband who works full-time, carries our health insurance, and is a fantastic co-parent in the off-hours when I’m gone. I don’t have the same worries others do when their work is sporadic and part-time. I’m lucky for that. And all things being equal, I get paid a decent hourly wage. It’s my job that pays for all the “extras.” I pay for Summer Camps, dance and saxophone lessons, acting classes and soccer. Having four kids means having lots of extras and I’m happy to contribute in this way. I know how much these extras enhance the overall quality of our family life.

If I were to focus on any of these options for 2016, receiving more compensation for my offerings would be great!  But I need to focus on what those offerings might be, first.

I’ve done some one-on-one phone consultations for people who are not in the Portland Metro area. Is this something I could charge for? It’s certainly something I enjoy doing, and it would only positively impact my quality of life and work.

The book I’m busy writing – it would be nice to be compensated for this offering, but this is unlikely to bring in much income in 2016. There’s still much work to do, as my focus has shifted and I’m more realistic about the timeline. But what offers ancillary to the book could I be working on that might bring in some form of compensation?

What about presentations and trainings? I love to give presentations and I’m good at it. Is this an area that I can expand, maybe even outside of my own field, and be compensated for it? I love to train new educators. How could this be rolled into my toolbox of offerings that would continue to feed all three options: quality of life, work and compensation?

All good things to consider as I move into 2016. I feel like this year I’m finally ready to take the necessary steps forward to increase the quality of my life, work and compensation.

How about you? What are you doing now that supports these options? What might you do differently in 2016 to better support one or more of these options?

Quest 2016 Begins in Earnest

Quest2016

I’ve signed up for another virtual quest accompanied by a group of wonderful creatives from around the globe with Jeffrey Davis at the front of the pack leading us along a path where we pause every couple of days to ponder how we might want to do things differently this year. He’s brought together 12 visionaries from all walks of life and work to create prompts for us along the way. Questions that might nudge us to dig a little deeper, think a little differently, and create with more authenticity. Today marks the beginning of Quest 2016. There’s still time to join if you are intrigued!

Today’s prompt comes from Susan Piver:

“What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…” 

My answer is both simple and straightforward – as well as complicated and unclear. I am wrestling with what seems to be my life’s constant companion: impatience.

I began questing for real over 3 years ago when I met Jeffrey Davis​ via Karen Brody​ and a webinar that she offered for those of us in the “birth world” who were interested in writing a book. A book? Me? It was only a passing thought, a fanciful idea that I might have something to say about my work with families in that most beautiful place where vulnerability crashes through whatever walls they’ve built to transform them – body and soul.

I listened to what Jeffrey had to say, albeit with a bit of skepticism. I kept wondering if he was authentic – a quality that I place the highest value on. Jeffrey is, in fact, as authentic as they come. As are all of the people he runs with. I jumped in with both feet and began my quest of writing a book having no idea where it would take me.

But three years later, I’m still writing the damn book!

Most writers reading this are probably shaking their heads right now and laughing! The gift of coming into the world of writing (relatively) late, is that I have no real idea what I’m doing. I make it all up as I go along and this affords me a level of naiveté that those steeped in the writing profession are already wise to: writing a book takes a really long time. Writing a good book, even longer. And a great book? The only one worth writing, in my opinion.

So, in the grand scheme of things, three+ years is nothing. And I’ve written 70,000 words already while working part-time and raising four children. I’ve started this blog and have maintained it for a little over a year (admittedly, some months better than others). I’ve submitted an essay that’s been accepted internationally (Canada, eh?), and I have one in the middle of the editing process right now. Most importantly, I’m more clear than ever what the real theme of my book is as a result of spending a week with the YBNS crew at Mohonk this past October having nothing else to distract me from The Story. Not too shabby, when I see it all written out, and yet…

I want this book to be completed already!

I’m actually enjoying the direction that my life has taken as I began this quest so long ago. I love the people that I’ve met because of this and my life (and social media) have both greatly improved as a result. It’s just that I keep wanting to get my message out there – into the hands and hearts of my people.

My message is not for everyone, but for the right people, I know it will have an impact on how they view themselves as individuals, parents and as a family. (Such audacity! Another gift of being new to this writing gig!) My message is clearer for the time it’s been percolating – getting knocked around, battered and bruised for all the rewriting that’s had to happen. My writing is so much stronger for all of it – for the blogging, the teaching, but most of all, the learning.

Impatience is both a curse and a blessing. Impatience spurs me on and keeps me going especially when the daily demands of being pulled in so many different directions threaten to unravel everything.

But impatience can also be paralyzing.

What if someone else writes my book before I do? Which, even though I don’t think is really possible, I scan the bookshelves at Powell’s just to make sure. I wonder if I’ll know when I’m done. I’m worried about what the next best step is to getting this project off the ground.

I have dreams of being farther along, or better yet, finished and that then maybe this restless feeling I have will finally settle. But maybe that’s just it – maybe once I said “Yes!” to this quest, I actually said yes to traveling on a journey that never really ends.

Maybe that’s what I most need to tell myself about 2016 – that this is just the beginning of my lifelong Quest. Make peace with your impatience, girl, because it will never go away – not completely. Once this quest is done – the book gets written, dare I say published? – don’t I secretly, or maybe not so secretly, hope for another quest to begin? See, my answer is simple and confounding at the same time. As all quests must be, I guess.

The irony of this revelation is not lost on me – it’s what I encourage my families to do as they prepare for their babies birth: Be open, flexible, vulnerable, expect the unexpected and – be patient.

Good advice that I might want to start taking.

If you’re at all interested in following what happens with this particular quest as I dare to write this book, please subscribe or follow this blog. You’ll be my traveling companions. I couldn’t imagine making this journey without you!

31 Days – What Can I Say? It’s a Calling.

CallingI sat in the darkened auditorium watching a series of slides: different women laboring hard to bring their babies into this world, while Tracy Chapman’s The Promise played quietly in the background. I felt like I had finally discovered what it was that I wanted to devote my life’s work to. This made no practical sense – as most callings never do. They are stirrings in your heart, your soul, your very being – that will not be ignored.

For some people, a calling might have to echo around for awhile before it gets noticed. But that’s not what happens to me. I’ve had the wonder of being receptive to such callings my whole life and when they first started happening, as a young girl, I would need a little bit of that echoing to occur. I’d need to hear it first as a whisper, then maybe a sweet conversation and then a stern lecture before I’d give it the attention that it deserved.

But after enough practice, I knew that when I heard, or rather, felt the first hint of, “What do you think about this?” that I should pay close attention and lean in, if only to see where it would lead me. Most of the major decisions in my life up to this moment have been the wonderful result of paying close attention to a calling.

Eighteen and half years ago, I was in a place of not knowing. I was in a job that I hated, and feeling stuck in that way that can be just so stubborn sometimes. I was interviewing all over the place to continue work in the non-profit sector. I would get called back to find myself one of two candidates being seriously considered for the job – only to lose out to the other person.

The doors weren’t just shutting on me, they were being slammed in my face. Or, so I thought. In retrospect (which is really the only way to look at things, right?), these doors were closing so that I wouldn’t be distracted when my real calling came. So that answering this calling would be easy because there were no other competing or compelling reasons not to.

But did it make any sense? No. I was at a doula training so that I could be at my best friend’s birth. That was it. She had asked me to be there, and I had said yes by signing up for a workshop in Seattle. I had no babies myself. I wasn’t even considering trying to get pregnant at the time. I had a healthy respect for pregnancy and birth as something that I would do someday, but I’d never even considered a job in this field.

And then… as I watched the images of women who were strangers to me work with such ferocity and strength at this task that seemed nothing less than miraculous, I couldn’t deny what was happening in my mind and heart. This was not a quiet, “What do you think about this?” moment. This was a screaming-jumping-up-and-down-with-a-bullhorn: “This is what you’re supposed to be doing with your life! Now – go find a way to make it happen!” moment. And so I did. But that’s another story for another time.

31days2015#4

This is also an answer to a calling. I’m called to write, and I’m in the middle of a book about this subject that has so captivated me for almost two decades. So, I answer this call by pledging to post on my blog for 31 days straight. Not an easy task, as I barely got through it last year. But just by sitting my butt down to write every single day for the month of October, I challenge myself to develop a practice that honors this secondary calling. One that is as valuable and potentially more impactful than what I’ve already been able to do through my job of guiding thousands of expectant families on their path toward becoming parents.

All I know is that when I’ve answered any calling in the past, I’ve never been steered in the wrong direction. It has always been a gift to me. I hope that in answering this call of writing specifically about that tricky transition into parenthood – the 4th Trimester – there will be gifts given to those who read my words. I’m using the prompts provided by the fabulous Kate Motaung at Five Minute Friday as a focus, but let’s be clear, I will be taking a lot longer than five minutes to write my posts! Please don’t feel pressured to keep up – there will be lots of them – but if you know of anyone who’s expecting or is right in the middle of new parenting whom you think might find some comfort in my words, send them my way. Thanks for your support as I try to answer this particular calling.

Have you ever experienced a true calling? Where, in the stillness, your heart leapt with the joy of a resounding “Yes!”? Did you follow that calling? I’d love to know.

Meet Me Halfway

NeglectedOh, my poor Blog! What have I done to you?! My last entry was May 21st! Let’s see, that was just before school let out, and as of today my four children celebrated day #5 of the new school year. Yep, I’m pretty sure that says it all! I didn’t mean to neglect you Blog, but in my defense, I had a lot going on!

It is true that I find it challenging to write while my kids and I are in the same location. Like our home. And although my husband is a great Dad and fully capable of taking care of them when I’m not around – he does this on a regular basis during the evenings and weekends when I’m away teaching…it’s just that, and I’m being completely honest here, we are the loudest group of people in the entire universe.

During the Summer, I feel as though I should write letters of apology to our neighbors because they’ll be able to hear all of the singing, dancing, and yelling that happens around here. Every night someone screams, “It’s time for dinner!” at decibel levels intolerable to most humans, and all dogs, because it’s just too hard to walk upstairs and tell your sibling in a normal voice that there’s food on the table. There’s a rock band that practices in the house directly next door and I’m okay with the fact that they don’t shut things down until after 10 pm because – they have to put up with our family in the Summer. It’s no contest who has it worse! It’s really hard to write when all of this is happening in the background, because let’s face it, it’s not in the background. It’s completely foreground, my friends.

And it’s not as though I didn’t do any writing this Summer, Blog. I’ve actually been really productive in that regard. I’ve been keeping busy creating curriculum for a training that will be happening in November, daring to excel with Jeffrey Davis and his ever amazing wonder trackers, tutoring myself on how to create an interview project about Stay At Home Dads that is worthy and enjoyable to listen to, and tweaking more than a couple of essays that have been accepted and hopefully published sometime this Fall. I’ve just neglected you, Blog, and I’m so sorry about that! But isn’t it true that we often take for granted those we care about the most? I’ve got several starts for new blogposts that will be published in the next several days – weeks at the latest – I swear it.

It’s just that my life as “Momma” really pushed up against my life as “Writer” these past several months.

My kids are growing up – fast. My oldest will be 16 in a little over a month. When her siblings mention offhandedly, “She leaves for college in just two years!” I want to say in return, “Yeah, I’m aware.” She switched high schools this year as a sophomore. I think that’s a big deal and felt like she might need me to be a bit more present through this transition. My 8th grade boy is now freaking out about having to make the right choice of where he’ll end up next year, which seemed like a no-brainer – until his sister wasn’t happy with our neighborhood school. My 5th grader was in tears the week before school, concerned that she wasn’t ready and that the math was going to be “impossible!” My saving grace in the lead-up to school year ’15/16, was my first-grader counting off the days until it started. He’s still upset that he won’t be getting any homework until next week – his siblings are worried that there might be something wrong with him.

Me? I just wanted Summer to last a little while longer.

We spent three weeks at the front end in true HoosierRican style, with a family wedding and reunion in Indiana, followed by with a cruise with the Puerto Ricans after that. July was crammed every single day with camps for one or all of them. And when August rolled around we did what has become my favorite tradition: camping along the gorgeous Oregon coastline. There was no cell service or WiFi during most of our trips and it was, in a word, fantastic! I guess I got used to being unplugged and off schedule – and I liked it. But now, “I’m baaaaack!” And I promise, dear Blog, that I will do my best to establish a regular practice of connecting with you again. I mean that and to prove it to you, I’m joining the 31 Day Challenge again this October. That’s how we met last year, don’t you remember, Blog?

It’s a crazy commitment of writing a blog post every-single-day-for-the-entire-month-of-October. It almost killed us last year, Blog. There were times that I couldn’t stand you. You were demanding, stubborn, and uncaring that I had no idea what I was doing, being completely new at all of this. I felt like all you did was take, take, take. But this year, it’s going to be different. I know how to blog, Blog. I’ve figured out how to make thumbnails in just a few keystrokes. I know how to write a catchy title so people will click on it. And I’ve proven that I can git ‘er dun – even if that means hitting the “publish” button at 11:54 pm.

So, these next few weeks will be a time of reacquaintance for us, Blog. I’ve got some ideas, and I’m sure you’ll try to make this difficult for me after all the time we spent apart this Summer. But now I know what it takes and I’m ready for the challenge. I’m willing to show up, Blog, and make this thing work – if you are.

Meet me halfway?

How were your plans derailed this Summer? Did you fight it? Surrender to it? Or enjoy it? I’m happy to be back and I hope you’re happy to have me back! Leave me some love, won’t you?